CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa received the Governor's Environmental Excellence Award for its dedication to water quality and its work to minimize pollution from entering Dry Run Creek, an impaired water body that flows directly through campus.
In order to ensure that UNI was yielding positive benefits to the environment and residents living downstream, a series of best management practices was put in place throughout campus. The primary focus has been to reduce pollution runoff during rainfall events from campus rooftops, parking lots and turf grasses. UNI has achieved these runoff reductions by installing controlled drainage systems, rain gardens and reintroducing native plant species. In some cases, these watershed improvements have resulted in a more than 90 percent reduction in the pollution load entering Dry Run Creek.
In addition to small-scale management practices, UNI partnered with the local community in the creation of a performance wetland. The wetland demonstration area serves many purposes, including education, recreation, flood migration and water-quality improvement. To date, this area has served as a living laboratory for UNI students as well as more than 1,000 students from local high schools.
Eric O'Brien, UNI sustainability coordinator, said the results of the project have been immense. "UNI has taken an active role in practicing sustainable stewardship of our primarily urban campus grounds," said O'Brien. "Improvements in water quality around campus are a direct result of dedicated and visionary employees who have forged partnerships with both public and private entities here in the Cedar Valley and throughout the state of Iowa."
Primary funding for the project came from UNI. Additional funding came from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Natural Resources' Water Quality Monitoring, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Watershed Improvement Review Board, and the City of Cedar Falls.
The Environmental Excellence awards are sponsored by the Governor's Office, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Waste Reduction Center.